Interview with Michael Harrington
QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

Let's go back to the last meeting of organizing the Poor People's Campaign. What was the state of the organizing of the campaign? And what about this--

MICHAEL HARRINGTON:

The state of organizing the Poor People's Campaign at that last meeting was very chaotic. Organization in the sense of careful preparation was not Dr. Martin Luther King's strong suit. He improvised. He went with the flow. And, ah, what he knew was that something had to be done given the problems of criticisms from both right and left. What he knew and what I kept urging at that meeting, was in addition to everything else, we have to pose some things where we can actually win. Ah, that is to say--

INTERVIEWER:

Do you want to start that one over again?

MICHAEL HARRINGTON:

The state of preparation for the poor people's march was very chaotic. That was typical of Dr. King. Careful organization and planning was not his strong suit. He was a genius at improvising. What he did understand was that his strength was in his appeal to masses of people. That he had to mobilize those masses given the defections he felt both to his right and left. And what I said to him at that meeting, was what ever else we do, what we have to do is we have to come up with some demands that we can actually win on. That we can't ask for the moon, or we can ask for the moon and we should ask for the moon, but we should also make some demands, and I don't remember the precise ones that I urged, but they would have been winnable demands in terms of legislation. And I would say this is something where Dr. King and I always agreed. That Part of his genius was to understand that you could not have a movement simply based on promises of the future--that you had to deliver. And he had delivered on voting rights. He had delivered on public accommodations. He had delivered on the Montgomery, ah, bus boycott, and on so many other things. And he understood now above all, was the time to deliver**.